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The Church Triumphantly Over-Achieving

“My dad can beat up your dad!” So the taunt went. Wishing to assert ourselves and make ourselves feel better we asserted that her dads were tougher, stronger, and most adept at fighting than anybody else’s dad. And that made us feel better.

I remember the first time I heard that on the playground. It seemed like an odd statement. Why would my dad want to beat up your dad? Did he do something to my dad? Was he planning to do something to my dad? Was this person’s dad basing his entire achievement as a human being on whether or not he could be at my dad? I’m sure my thoughts weren’t quite as specific as they are now, but you get the picture.

When I became an adult, I became more adult at making myself feel better about myself. I moved to more subtle putdowns, or rather saying things that were at others expense, usually in the form of humor. The words I used caused other people pain, but I didn’t see it like that at the time. I only wanted to feel better about myself. So, while I never said, “my dad can beat up your dad.” I did say, in effect, “I need to feel better about myself and so I’m going to subtly and cleverly put you down. I don’t really mean it, but I’ll feel better when I’m done.”

When I became a Christian, it took me a long time to discover that I used words like that. In effect, what I was saying instead was, “My God can beat up your God.” Yet, the motivation was the same -- to feel better about myself.

A very wise friend, out of love for me, came to me and gently pointed out the error of my ways. He and his wife help me see that to treat other people like that, while unintentional, lacked compassion and empathy. To treat other people like that was equivalent to saying that I love you but really only for my own benefit.

I’m working on this, trying to love people for God’s glory and their benefits. It’s hard because it represents the undoing of a lifetime of bad habits many of which are buried deep in my spirit. But because our God is a God of the impossible I strive forward.

Sometimes people need to feel better about the church. “My church is bigger than yours. My church has better music than yours, larger youth group, more activities, cooler people, or spiritual people, or none of those things, it’s just better. Yet, the body of believers we are called to associate with are our family. We love them. Some people grow restless and think needing to feel better about their church means they need to find a new one, but this rarely solves the problem. They feel great about the church they’re at for a while but then the new wears off and they’re out shopping again before long.

Many times, needing to feel better about your church is the way God uses us to draw us into action, to think deeply about the future of the church and our role in shaping it. Our human reaction when we don’t feel good about our church is to blame a group of people in the church or the pastor. There may be some basis for this, but many times it is an unhealthy redirecting of the dissatisfaction that has its source in God who often uses dissatisfaction to stir the hearts and minds of God’s people, to help them enter a season of self-examination, to assist them in brainstorming wonderful ministry opportunities, to bring them to their knees in fervent prayer, to change and become more like Jesus.

We can find ourselves overachieving and unhealthy ways, striving to be better than someone else to feel better about ourselves. All the while the dissatisfaction was intended to motivate us towards holiness. A redirection is often the solution. A holy discontent is more the product of our feelings of lackluster, dreary lives. Thank God, the Giver of dissatisfaction, the Rewarder of holy motivation and Spirit-fired endurance. May we live dissatisfied until we are conformed into the image of Christ and brought to maturity as children of light!

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